Now read the following text about one of the ways of escaping our monotonous
daily routine: a visit to a beautiful place and do the given tasks.
Just fed up with the hectic pace of life in the Kathmandu metropolis, a few of us old
classmates got together and decided to go on a little trip to a little town called Bandipur.
A friend of ours, a native of the place, had told us so much about the place that at last
after much delaying we set out for the weekend to discover the place where none of us
had been before – a place where old Nepal lives on. Bandipur! The very name for us
seemed to spell magic! We were soon to learn that there is a great deal of truth in the
belief that time stops in the town of Bandipur. That a tiny piece of Old Nepal still lives
on in that cool, cobbled Newar settlement.
Our journey uphill to Bandipur, our destination branched off the Prithvi Rajmarg about
two kilometres west of Dumre and which we reached by catching the local bus service.
In less than an hour, we reached the medieval town. If we felt like a bit of adventure,
we could have done the two plus hour steep climb up from Dumre. But with not much
time on our hands, we decided otherwise and in about a three hour bus ride from noisy
Kathmandu, we suddenly found ourselves almost a century back in time. We were in
the medieval town of Bandipur!
History has it that Bandipur was part of the Magar kingdom of Tanahun ruled from
nearby Palpa, Tansen the Headquarters. But Newar traders flooded in from Kathmandu,
Bhaktapur and Patan after the conquest of Kathmandu Valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah.
The town in those days was an important stop on the Nepal-Tibet trade route until it
was bypassed by the Prithvi Rajmarg below in the 1960s. Bandipur, like several other
hill towns, faced several problems during the Maoist insurgency but things gradually
reverted to normal, and peace and quiet pervades the place once more.
The town derives its name from BAN meaning forest, DI that means water in the
Magar language and PUR meaning a place. So originally Bandipur must have been
a forest area with plenty of water. The town, which is built along a high ridge above
Dumre, occupies a vantage point and from the Tundikhel below one can view the most
stunning panorama of Himalayan peaks from Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, Langtang,
Lirung, Manaslu, right down to Ganesh Himal.
The place was just as our friend told us. With its ancient cobbled streets and the medieval
ambience displayed by old houses that exhibit glorious 18th century architecture,
Bandipur continues to retain the timeless magic of the centuries. Later in the course
of our short stay, we discovered that at the northeast end of the bazaar, was the main
shopping strip. Nearby stands the ornate two-tiered Bindabasini Temple dedicated to
Durga, the guardian deity of the town. Needless to say, we spent the weekend just
lazing around and loitering around the town or making short trips to nearby temples,
viewpoints and some mysterious caves.
Bandipur is probably the only example of a town that is truly a living museum of
Newar culture. Its winding lanes are lined with tall Newar houses and people here
seem to live, as they must have done years before. It is somewhat hard to believe
that a town tucked away somewhere up in the hills and barely three hours away from
Kathmandu has by default managed to escape the ravages of modern day development.
Thanks to the help from Himalayan Encounters and enterprising locals, dilapidated
buildings have been given a face-lift and now come alive once more transformed as
cafes and lodges. Some notable ones are Bandipur Guest House, Old Bandipur Inn,
Bandipur Mountain Resort, Piya Lodge, Raksha Hotel and Lodge, Pradhan Family
Guest House etc. Ancient temples and civic buildings almost in ruins now throb with
new life and vitality and currently buzz with human activity.
These timely and thoughtful measures have enabled life in Bandipur to go on as ever
clean and pollution free. While we were there we saw no sign whatsoever of two or
four wheelers in the main town area. A living community, the locals are seen doing
their daily chores, the tinkling of bells as women do their early temple rounds, noisy
school children and campus students thronging the main thoroughfare of the town and
villagers, farmers and traders going about their business.
Today the form of business in Bandipur
has changed from the traditional variety. It
is a tourism related business today. Those
locals that migrated down to Dumre,
Narayanghat and to Kathmandu in search
of greener pastures still come back to the
place once in a while to get away from it
all. As our friend from Bandipur put it,
“Yes I still have my house in Bandipur
and will not sell it as long as I live. My
children can do what they like with it
after I am gone but as long as I am around I will in no way put an end to the umbilical
cord that binds me to the place of my birth.”
“Though I have a thriving business in Kathmandu,” he continued, “I still go there to
our old ancestral house with my family to celebrate Dashain, Tihar and other festivals.
My younger brother runs a lodge there and is doing well too and has maintained the
place very well. I don’t know how to put it but when I am up there in Bandipur, after
a couple of months in this Kathmandu hellhole, an indescribable feeling of happiness
overcomes my being and I am completely at peace. When I am there I realize how
much I miss the place. It is my life, my very identity.”
When we were up there we fully understood that feeling of belongingness to the place.
No doubt, Bandipur does have that magnetic pull. It is indeed a magical town and
we were attracted to it immediately. The place is something out of this world. It was
like travelling back in time back to old Nepal of a century ago. Since tourism is now
the mainstay of Bandipur, almost every house is either a café, a pub or a hotel. As
our friend had told us earlier, the local school children speak good English as it is
necessary for family business purposes and moreover, to interact with tourists.”
To our surprise, even small, clean, humble Magar HOMESTAY dwellings with just
two rooms and four clean beds do good business. Exploring the place one morning, we
entered one such place near the town area and out of sheer curiosity, asked to make us
some breakfast. Not knowing what to order we asked the Magar lady to make us what
she made best. Meanwhile we looked around the spotlessly clean place and saw a little
refrigerator in a corner, a shelf stacked with biscuits, instant noodles, trekker’s food,
cornflakes, different types of beer, varieties of canned food, tea, coffee etc.
Within minutes the lady of the house put before us cheese omelettes, two slices of
bread each and finger chips. Later we washed it down with glasses of excellent milk
coffee. It was perfect and far beyond our expectations. The next morning we visited
the place again. The lady greeted us with a knowing smile and this time without our
saying made us pancakes with Bandipur honey and again milk coffee to go with it. We
unanimously agreed that it tasted absolutely divine! Maybe the local spices and extra
ingredients of love and affection that went into it made it all the more memorable.
The next evening we unwillingly caught the bus to dusty, dirty, crowded, polluted and
impersonal – 21st century Kathmandu to face life once more. The teeming metropolis
soon made us realize what we had been missing. The hangover of Bandipur, however,
has remained so strong that we have decided on another trip to Bandipur in the near
future. But this time, on a longer and weeklong trip to the place! -Anand P. Shrestha
All Units Notes